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Effects of tidy/messy work environment on human accuracy

Ricardo Mateo (School of Economics and Business Administration, University of Navarra, Pamplona, Spain)
Jose Roberto Hernández (Universidad del Istmo, Ciudad de Guatemala, Guatemala)
Carmen Jaca (Department of Industrial Organization, University of Navarra, San Sebastián, Spain)
Szabolcs Blazsek (School of Business, Universidad Francisco Marroquin, Ciudad de Guatemala, Guatemala)

Management Decision

ISSN: 0025-1747

Article publication date: 11 November 2013




The purpose of this paper is to study the relationship between accuracy and conscientiousness among people working in a tidy/messy work environment.


A laboratory experiment was conducted, where participants performing a simple task in a highly controlled environment were sorted into two different treatments, a tidy or a messy work environment.


The results of this study suggest that conscientious people commit more errors in a messy environment than in a tidy environment. Therefore, one of the most significant findings to emerge from this study is that a messy environment could be detrimental to the accuracy of conscientious people.

Research limitations/implications

This study is limited in several respects. First of all, the sample is not large, with 80 participants; some variables, such us IQ levels, fatigue levels, caffeine consumption, etc. were not controlled for. Third, the task was restricted to inputting data into a computer.

Practical implications

Taken together, these findings suggest the need to promote excellence in work environment tidiness, because highly conscientious employees will work with greater accuracy, while the less conscientious will not be affected. Therefore, overall, accuracy will be better. Consequently, the managers of the organization should be committed to defining policies about high standards of tidiness in the workplace environment.


This is the first study to provide evidence of the moderation of the tidy/messy work environment in the relationship between conscientiousness and human accuracy. The present study sheds light on the impact of messy work environment on accuracy of high conscientious people, inducing them to work in a defective way.



This research received a financial grant from the Volkswagen Navarra Business Chair for executing the experiments required by the research.


Mateo, R., Roberto Hernández, J., Jaca, C. and Blazsek, S. (2013), "Effects of tidy/messy work environment on human accuracy", Management Decision, Vol. 51 No. 9, pp. 1861-1877.



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Copyright © 2013, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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